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Motorola purchase could shield Google from patent lawsuits

Experts say Google's $12.5-billion purchase is aimed at 'creating its own device brand to compete with Apple' and defending itself and its partner firms from lawsuits over the Android operating system.

August 16, 2011|By David Sarno and Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

"I suspect that when the dust settles the transaction will be cleared, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were strings attached," said Jeffrey Silva, a telecom policy analyst at Medley Global Advisors.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Google businesses such as search and advertising to determine if the company is abusing its market dominance to squelch competitors.

The acquisition of Motorola, however, is likely to be reviewed by the Justice Department, which normally handles telecommunications deals.

In April, justice officials approved Google's purchase of travel data company ITA Software Inc. But the approval came with conditions, including a requirement that Google license ITA's software to other websites on reasonable terms.

Google would pay $40 a share for Motorola Mobility — a 63% premium over the company's closing stock price Friday. On Monday, investors bid up the price of Motorola's stock 55%, to $38.12. Google shares dipped nearly 1.2%, to $557.23.

Taking over Motorola also could advance Google's ambitions to weave the Web further into the way consumers watch television. Motorola is one of the largest makers of the set-top boxes that control cable and satellite television.

Google has tried to market its Google TV, a system that combines conventional television with shows and movies that can be streamed from the Internet, but the product was greeted with tepid reviews and has not been widely embraced by consumers.

Google probably will experiment with integrating Google TV into the Motorola boxes, said Jason Helfstein, an Internet research analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. But the company also must deal with cable companies that may be unhappy with the idea of making it easier for consumers to stream videos on the Internet for free.

david.sarno@latimes.com

shan.li@latimes.com

Times staff writer Jim Puzzanghera in Washington contributed to this report.

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